Africa Media Review for December 2, 2020

The Puzzle of JNIM and Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel
With over 1,000 reported violent incidents in the past year, the Sahel has experienced the most rapid expansion of militant Islamist activity of any region in Africa. Two-thirds of these events are attributed to the coalition, Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Yet, the JNIM structure and its operations are poorly understood. In this latest Africa Security Brief, the Africa Center’s Daniel Eizenga and Wendy Williams unpack the distinctive features of the component groups of JNIM, the relative threats they pose, and the means for responding more effectively to each element. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

UN Experts: South Sudan’s Latest Peace Effort Has Stalled
U.N. experts say South Sudan’s latest peace effort has stalled, with the coalition government formed in February failing to meet deadlines and President Salva Kiir locking opposition leader and now First Vice President Riek Machar “out of the government’s decision-making process.” The panel of experts said it was told by senior leaders of Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition that the first vice-president has been “de facto under house arrest,” and that Kiir’s faction has monopolized government policies, giving opposition ministers “ceremonial roles” and also excluding them from decision-making. “While government officials have attributed the stagnation of the peace agreement to the spread of COVID-19, multiple sources within the government, including ministers and aides close to the president, told the panel that the lack of implementation is a consequence of political disagreements,” the experts’ said in the 56-page report circulated Tuesday. AP

UN, Ethiopia Sign Deal for Aid Access to Embattled Tigray
In a breakthrough a month after deadly conflict cut off Ethiopia’s Tigray region from the world, the United Nations on Wednesday said it and the Ethiopian government have signed a deal to allow “unimpeded” humanitarian access, at least for areas under federal government control after the prime minister’s declaration of victory over the weekend. This will allow the first food, medicines and other aid into the region of 6 million people that has seen rising hunger during the fighting between the federal and Tigray regional governments. Each regards the other as illegal in a power struggle that has been months in the making. … For weeks, aid-laden trucks have been blocked at Tigray’s borders, and the U.N. and other humanitarian groups were increasingly anxious to reach Tigray as hunger grows and hospitals run out of basic supplies like gloves and body bags. AP

Uganda: Bobi Wine Suspends Election Campaign over Violence
Bobi Wine, the Ugandan singer and presidential candidate, suspended his campaign on Tuesday after members of his campaign team were injured and his car shot at during clashes between security personnel and his supporters. The developments were the latest in escalating violence in Uganda as authorities crack down on supporters of 38-year-old Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi. “With effect from today, I am suspending my campaign until further notice,” he told a news conference in a village near the capital Kampala on Wednesday. “We are going to the electoral commission headquarters to inquire why we are being tortured by security institutions… our campaign is affected by police brutality.” Bobi Wine is seeking to end the decades-long rule of 76-year-old President Yoweri Museveni in an election scheduled for January 14. Al Jazeera

Stop Favouring Museveni, Africa Judges Tell Security Forces
African judges under their professional association of Africa Judges and Jurists Forum (AJJF) have castigated Ugandan security forces for disrupting the electoral process by attacking and blocking Opposition candidates on the campaign trail. The judges said the police are favouring President Museveni as his campaign meetings are not violently dispersed yet they also flout Covid-19 guidelines, an excuse the security forces use to violently break up meetings of the Opposition presidential candidate. They state that holding elections during the Covid-19 pandemic poses a health challenge, but nonetheless, any restrictions imposed to curb the spread should be applied to all candidates in equal measure. … The jurists also castigated the remarks by Security minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, who recently said police have the right to shoot and kill citizens if they go beyond a certain level of decency. Daily Monitor

Islamist Violence Escalates in Burkina Faso, Making Widespread Hunger Worse
Habibou Sore had to pause for breath as she ran barefoot from the approaching gunmen. She was pregnant with twins, due any day. Soon after arriving at a nearby town in northern Burkina Faso, her feet cut and swollen, Sore gave birth. Then her battle with hunger began. Attacks by Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed thousands of people this year in Africa’s Sahel region, an arid belt to the south of the Sahara Desert. The escalating bloodshed has worsened food shortages that threaten millions in a region already hit by climate change, poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixteen months after fleeing her village, Sore lives with relatives in the town of Pisilla and eats one small meal a day. … Over 7 million people face acute hunger in a vast area comprising landlocked Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, as armed groups cut off access to supplies and farmland, figures from the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) show. Reuters

Guns Fall Silent in Troubled Northern Mali Town
After years of violence and lawlessness during which the Malian town of Menaka changed hands between rebels and Islamists, a fragile calm has finally returned due to joint patrols by federal troops, militiamen and UN peacekeepers. Situated in the desert northeast of the vast Sahel state, close to the border with Niger, Menaka is at the heart of a jihadist-infested region and has known little but conflict for years. … A diplomat in Mali’s capital Bamako who declined to be named said that fighting between armed groups in Menaka until recently had “an atmosphere resembling the settling of scores at the OK Corral,” referring to the setting of an infamous American Wild West shootout. However in September Malian forces and UN troops — of which there are some 13,000 in the country — deployed to the town, to work with the local militias. French troops in Mali are also supporting the mission, which is dubbed “Menaka without guns.” The uniting of foreign and local soldiers alongside militiamen is unprecedented in Mali’s eight-year conflict — and it appears to be working in Menaka. AFP

Mali: COVID-19 and Conflict Lead to Rise in Child Trafficking
Child trafficking is rising in Mali, along with forced labour and forced recruitment by armed groups, due to conflict, insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday. Some 230 cases of child recruitment were reported during the first half of the year, compared with 215 cases for the whole of 2019, according to a UNHCR-backed study. Armed groups are also trafficking children to work in gold mines, with the profits being used to fuel the arms trade and finance violence, the agency added. Meanwhile, adults operating in the mines are subjected to extortionate “taxes.” “As a result of conflict and socio-economic deterioration worsened by the pandemic, we are seeing some of the most egregious human rights violations in the Sahel,” said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. UN News

Clash Kills Somali Soldiers, Civilians and Al-Shabab Militants
At least 15 people were killed early Monday morning in the central Somalia town of Ba’adweyene in the most recent attack by al-Shabab militants. The insurgents’ assault on a military base on Ba’adweyne’s outskirts left four soldiers dead, along with 11 civilians who had joined the battle, an official with Somalia’s Ministry of Information told VOA Somali on Tuesday. The ministry also said in a statement that 51 militants were killed and six were captured, with regional officials sharing photos of the militants on social media. The statement said an al-Shabab commander was captured in the fighting. Meanwhile, al-Shabab claimed on its website Tuesday that it had overrun the military base, killing 53 soldiers and seizing six vehicles outfitted with guns. The militant group published photos of weapons purportedly seized from the base, including anti-aircraft and B-10 recoilless rifles mounted on vehicles. VOA

Old Faces, Familiar Fears: Central African Republic’s Tense Election
Tensions are building ahead of presidential and legislative elections this month in Central African Republic, amid friction between rival candidates and increasing violence by armed groups that still control much of the country despite a peace agreement signed almost two years ago. Among the candidates who have applied to stand for president on 27 December is former leader François Bozizé, who returned to CAR in late 2019 after six years in exile following his ouster by rebels. Supporters of the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, claim Bozizé, who is under UN sanctions, cannot stand because he didn’t spend 12 consecutive months in the country prior to submitting his application to run, as is required by law. Bozizé’s team claim he entered CAR via neighbouring Cameroon before the deadline. The New Humanitarian

Tanzania’s Opposition Party Moves to Court over ‘Flawed’ Polls
Tanzania’s ACT-Wazalendo has sued the government at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights over alleged electoral misconduct. The party is challenging the government for interfering with their rights in the just concluded election that saw Dr John Magufuli and Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi declared winners for the union and Zanzibar presidency respectively. On Monday, ACT-Wazalendo head of Legal Affairs Omar Said Shaaban said the case was filed on November 20. He said the outcome of the court case will make a significant contribution in pushing forward various agenda of change that have to be supported by continental and international stakeholders. The applicants argued that both the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC), that organised and supervised the conduct of the elections in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, were compromised. The Citizen

Ghana’s Essential Workers Vote Early Ahead of Next Monday’s National Election
Ghana’s essential workers, including police, health care workers and military personnel cast their votes Tuesday ahead of next Monday’s national elections. President Nana Akufo-Addo is facing 11 challengers, including former president John Mahama. The opposition leader is expected to be the president’s strongest rival in the West African nation’s election. The Congo-based media outlet AfricaNews cites a recent survey by the Center for Democratic Development that shows incumbent President Akufo-Addo held a slight lead over Mahama. Both candidates made reviving Ghana’s economy a cornerstone of their campaigns. The Electoral Commission said so-called Covid-19 ambassadors will be located at all 311 voting centers to make sure voters follow protocols, including wearing masks, getting temperature checks and are sanitizing their hands. VOA

Nigeria: Outrage as Boko Haram Confirms Killing 78 Nigerian Rice Farmers
Abubakar Shekau, the 47-year-old leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group, has confirmed that the group killed 78 rice farmers in Nigeria. The confirmation comes as governors rebuked the military, calling for engagement of mercenaries to tackle the terrorists. Shekau said on Tuesday that the killing of the rice farmers last Saturday in Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State in northeast Nigeria was a revenge. In a video released on Tuesday night, he claimed responsibility for the killing, explaining that although Nigeria buried 43 victims, 78 people were killed. According to him, his men went after the farmers because they handed over a member of the group to the Nigerian army. He threatened that his group would go after those giving information about their activities to the military. Nation

End SARS Protests: The Nigerian Women Leading the Fight for Change
Ms Oduala was one of the first to take to the streets after a video went viral of a man allegedly being killed by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), sparking what became known as the EndSars demonstrations. She set up camp outside the Lagos governor’s office on 7 October, demanding the police unit be disbanded. As a media strategist, she knew how to rally people on social media to join her – organising blankets for people who ended up sleeping outside the state government buildings for 72 hours before police attacked them. With her 172,000 Twitter followers, she is one of several women who have shaken the Nigerian establishment to its core over the last six weeks. Her EndSars activism saw her Twitter account get the blue verified badge. Today she is part of a panel in Lagos sitting at a judicial inquiry into police abuse – one of the key demands of the protesters after the president disbanded the unit. But she is concerned about her security and is one of 20 protest organisers to have their funds frozen by the central bank early in November. BBC

Journalists Struggle through Information Blackout in Ethiopia
As fighting erupted in the Ethiopian region of Tigray in early November, the northern part of the country was cut from internet, mobile phone and landline communications. Journalists say the government-imposed blackout made it virtually impossible to get accurate information about the conflict. “We’ve had journalists, publication houses speaking out and saying that essentially it’s incredibly difficult to document what’s happening on the ground,” said Muthoki Mumo, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s sub-Saharan Africa representative. “Because you’re unable to contact sources, it’s difficult to verify what you’re hearing, and it’s in this kind of environment where the work of journalists becomes difficult, perhaps where you might even see misinformation going unchecked.” At crucial moments such as the push in recent days by the Ethiopian military to retake the northern city of Mekelle, news outlets were unable to verify basic information. VOA

Nissan Sets up New Business Unit for African Region
Japanese automotive group Nissan is to set up a new regional business unit for Africa as it seeks to boost manufacturing capacity and penetrate one of the world’s biggest undeveloped new car markets. The move marks a reorganisation of the company’s disparate operations on the continent, bringing them within one entity headed by Mike Whitfield, who has previously served as managing director of Nissan’s units in both South Africa and Egypt. “Beyond internal operating enhancements, this also positions Nissan to focus on the massive opportunity that Africa presents to the organisation globally,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population and household incomes are rising. But its 1 billion inhabitants account for only 1% of the world’s new passenger car sales, based on industry data. Reuters

Storied Narrative’s Translation Prompts a Fresh Look at the Slave Trade
In 1739, everything changed for Broteer Furro. The son of a wealthy chieftain in West Africa had just returned home from an apprenticeship when a raiding army attacked their village. According to historians’ estimates, Broteer was only 9 or 10 years old when he watched the raiders kill his father. Like more than a million others during the transatlantic slave trade, he was soon marched to the coast of present-day Ghana and sold to American slavers. Standing aboard the Charming Susanna, Broteer received a new name: Venture. As in, purchased as another man’s personal business venture. … Venture Smith never returned to Africa, but now his story will. The Documenting Venture Smith Project, based in Torrington, Connecticut, in collaboration with scholars from England and Ghana, has translated Smith’s 1798 narrative into Fante, an Akan dialect spoken by roughly 2.7 million people in Ghana’s coastal regions. The Christian Science Monitor



Photo: Adam Jones